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[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ] http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/05/23/1053585696870.html Doctors tell how children's deaths became propaganda By Matthew McAllester in Baghdad May 24 2003 Throughout the 13 years of United Nations sanctions on Iraq that were ended on Thursday, Iraqi doctors told the world that the sanctions were the sole cause for the rocketing mortality rate among Iraqi children. "It is one of the results of the embargo," Dr Ghassam Rashid al-Baya said on May 9, 2001, at Baghdad's Ibn al-Baladi Hospital, just after a dehydrated baby named Ali Hussein died on his treatment table. "This is a crime on Iraq." It was a scene repeated in hundreds of articles by reporters who were always escorted by minders from Saddam Hussein's Ministry of Information. Now free to speak, the doctors at two Baghdad hospitals, including Ibn al-Baladi, tell a very different story. Along with parents of dead children, they said this week that Saddam turned the children's deaths into propaganda, notably by forcing hospitals to save babies' corpses to have them publicly paraded. All the evidence is that the spike in children's deaths was tragically real - roughly, a doubling of the mortality rate during the 1990s, humanitarian organisations estimate. But the reason has been fiercely argued, and new accounts by Iraqi doctors and parents will alter the debate. Under the sanctions regime, "we had the ability to get all the drugs we needed", said Ibn al-Baladi's chief resident, Dr Hussein Shihab. "Instead of that, Saddam Hussein spent all the money on his military force and put all the fault on the USA. Yes, of course the sanctions hurt - but not too much, because we are a rich country and we have the ability to get everything we can by money. But instead, he spent it on his palaces." Washington and others have long blamed Saddam's spending habits for the poor health of Iraqis. For years, the Iraqi government, some Western officials and the anti-sanctions movement said UN restrictions on Iraqi imports and exports were at fault. Doctors said they were forced to refrigerate dead babies in hospital morgues until the authorities were ready to gather the little corpses for monthly parades in small coffins on the roofs of taxis for the benefit of Iraqi state television and visiting journalists. The parents were ordered to wail with grief - no matter how many weeks had passed since their babies had died - and to shout to the cameras that the sanctions had killed their children, the doctors said. Afterwards, the parents would be rewarded with food or money. "I am one of the doctors who was forced to tell something wrong, that these children died from the fault of the UN," Dr Shihab said, sitting in his hospital's staff room with his deputy, another doctor and one of the hospital's administrators. "But I am afraid if I tell the true thing . . ." Dr Shihab paused. Using the present tense in English to describe the prewar past, he continued: "They will kill me. Me and my family and my uncle and my aunt - everyone." The last baby parade involving Ibn al-Baladi was in 2001, said Kamal Khadoum, a hospital administrator. He did not know why the practice was stopped. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk